Hey Folks! Again, so much snow. The good news is that we will be so happy and appreciative of Spring! Woo Hoo! Here are the things coming up this week:
ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE: Wednesday @ noon in the chapel. Come and focus your heart and mind on the season of Lent, a time of reflection and drawing close to God.
FRONT PORCH OUTREACH: Wednesday, 12:30pm – 4pm We will be giving away Warm Fuzzies, as well as free coffee and hot chocolate from our front porch. Please come and join us!
VERITAS: Tonight. Meet at Wesley at 7pm and we will walk over to Garrett Balroom together. Well known speaker Os Guinness will be speaking on “The Thinking Person’s Search for Meaning.” Bring a friend!
THURSDAY: Join us on Thursday for free food and our program at 6:30pm. We are having pizza and lots of it. The good kind with oodles and oodles of toppings. And a couple of pastas as well! Also, we are beginning a time of looking at how Bible Study can make a difference in our lives. Over the next few weeks I will be showing you the tools I use to keep Scripture in my head and heart, taking it in deeply to do its work. We begin this Thursday by looking at how to study Greek when you don’t know Greek. It’s not hard and it can be such a blessing to get a true picture of what the original writers meant. Woo Hoo!
NOW FOR SAMI’S RAMBLINGS ABOUT JESUS:
Do you ever just have one of those days? Sometimes I think I am just having one of those months, or even one of those years. Like everything in life, difficulty and challenge seem to circle through our experiences; like the seasons periods of tough times come around on a regular basis. It is so easy to get discouraged, but that is not God’s intention for us. God has something better in mind.
Ever since last week I have pondered the whole distinction between the peace Jesus gives and the agitation, or troubling, we get from the other guy. What is clear to me is that the Peace Jesus offers and promises does not come with a smooth sailing guarantee. In fact, storms are just a part of life. I’ve always been kind of tickled by the story of Jesus and the disciples caught in the storm while in a boat. Jesus sleeps through it. (I would assume He had been up in the wee hours of the night before feeding an infant, but that’s not part of His story. Tim would attest to my ability to sleep through just about anything.) The disciples freak out! They wake Jesus and ask Him if He even cares that they are perishing. A little miffed from being awoken, Jesus speaks to the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4 39). And I tend to think it is not so much because He minds the wind and waves, but because it is the only way He can get the disciples to allow Him some shut-eye. After he rebukes the wind and the waves, He turns His attention to the disciples saying, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). I don’t think the intonation was like, “Okay you little darlings, why were you scared?” I believe it was a ton more irritated, like “What is wrong with you, and why are you waking me up!?” I mean really, isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus thinks the wind and waves are no big deal? Isn’t it nice to know He knows He can sit this one out? It’s not like He is in the
It is so like us. So like me. I look around at the storms in my life, or sometimes just the ones in my heart, or sometimes just the ones in my head, and with great affect I cry out, “Oh God! Don’t you care that I’m perishing?!” God has such a different perspective than me. I can see Him kind of laughing and saying, “Little one, why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” How many storms has He already brought me through? Things Jesus could sleep through, because He knew they were really nothing in the grand scheme of my life. I believe His perspective on difficulty is supremely helpful here. It gives us a frame of reference for locating difficulty in its proper place. No, we are not perishing. He is just allowing a good polishing. It’s just something about Him. He likes really shiny believers! So here are a few ways that God’s perspective reframes difficulty for us.
Scripture tells us that God will allow difficulty in our lives for several reasons. One is for bringing maturity. The book of James says,
“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Another reason is for discipline, or training, (as in an athlete that is training for the Olympics, or a child who is learning good manners). After talking about running the race with perseverance, the writer of Hebrews says,
“Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? . . . . Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7,11).
It also yields the wonderful fruit of Olympic medals! One more reason for difficulty is that it reveals God’s glory in our lives. Romans teaches that while we already have obtained peace with God, standing in His grace, it is through difficulty that we share His glory:
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:1-5).
In the midst of all this, the enemy works really hard to influence what we believe about difficulty. The fact is that life is difficult. Whether you have faith in Christ, whether you don’t, all of us will experience hard times. But the enemy tries to frame our beliefs about that difficulty around untruth so that we stay defeated, discouraged, and disgruntled as a way of dimming God’s light in our lives and subsequently in the world. The first lie the enemy tries to get us to believe is that Christians should not experience hardships because they belong to God, as if being a child of God is a special club that exempts its members from the unpleasant aspects of belonging to the human race. But as Christians, or Christ’s ones, we are to follow His own example. And as He explained to a would-be follower, often times He didn’t have a place to lay His head. Jesus came to us in the flesh, not to give us a way to escape the human condition, but precisely to enter deeply into the human condition, to reveal His glory in every part of it. Scripture says this to us:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed” (I Peter 4:12-3).
Another false belief the enemy would lure us into is believing that God is absent in our trials. That we must endure them alone, without any help. And yet it is God’s very own presence that allows us to bear up under whatever difficulty we are experiencing. II Corinthians puts it this way:
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. . . . So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:8-10, 16).
Even when we get the first two perspectives, the enemy would try to keep us defeated by trying to get us to believe that our experience of difficulty is empty and barren, with no redemptive value whatsoever. It is one of the ways the enemy tries to rob our lives of their value. Paul says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). As we are obedient in submitting our difficulty into the hand of God, allowing Him to shape us through it, to develop within us those qualities that reveal His light to the world, God is then able to reposition our lives to the place where our light shines the most. He never wastes the life of humble submission. Those rare souls who will bear up under trials, choosing no matter what to love Him and seek His face even when it is hard, have a metal that has been tempered in life’s fires without faltering. They are then ready to be used in ways that they could not before. Their strength has been developed for a purpose that once exercised brings them great joy and the Heavenly Father great glory. Scripture says it like this:
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion you adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:6-11).
The right frame makes all the difference in the picture that is presented. I have in my office a photograph that was taken from an ordinary camera on a Wesley Foundation Spring break trip during the 80’s. When I first saw it in a stack of other old photos, I first thought it was pretty ordinary. But then I had this nudge to use it for a worship service. So I put it in a frame and displayed it with a purpose of sharing God’s truth when decorating a prayer room. Now it speaks to me through beauty that God’s grace brought to light. And that is the picture God is making in our lives. His grace reframes our hard times in such a way that beauty and light pour out of them. We just have to give Him a chance to do it. As one of my Wesley guys says, it’s all in the attitude.
This is me trusting,
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